If you would come after me…
Luke 9:23 –If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Deny Yourself: As an American for sure I have to ask myself the question, “What does that mean?” What does it mean to deny myself? I have lived in a culture all of my life that instead challenges me to be the center of my own universe. What does this mean? It is more than “deny ourselves” indulgence or a taste of that pet sin that we have carried around for some time. To deny myself literally means to refuse to follow myself. That is difficult in a world that tells me to “be true to my self”, “love myself”, invest in my own “self-esteem”, and most importantly to “believe in my self.” Jesus tells me to rid myself of all of that if I am going to follow him. To deny myself is to live the confession that I make daily that Jesus Christ is Lord. If He is Lord, I am not. He is the center of the universe and therefore I should be true to Him, love Him, worship Him, and most importantlly believe in Him. Denying oneself is not normal or natural. This kind of living marks us as disciples of Jesus in a world filled with self-lovers.
Take up Your Cross: Really? Pick up a brutal instrument of death and follow you? The cross is a symbol of shame, guilt, suffering, and rejection. There could be no more despicable way to die. In the 1st century, crucifixion was not mentioned in polite conversation, and none wore crosses on their person or had them inked on their skin. It would be like us making jewelry in the form of an electric chair or tattooing one on our ankle. How do I take up my cross? To do such a think is to join Christ in His surrender, in His suffering, in His sacrifice. I cannot literally nail myself to a cross but I can present my life as a sacrifice. Romans 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” I like how Paul describes the act of following Jesus by taking up his cross. In Galatians 2:20 he says, “For I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”
Daily: Every day? Do you mean that if I am to come after you there are no days off? You want me to choose every day to deny myself and take up my cross. In truth, it is a daily choice. People get confused. The good news is that when Jesus took up His cross and you and I confessed his life, death, and resurrection for the propitiation of our sin we were saved. Daily, however the gospel compels us because of love to choose to follow Him. Taking up my cross does not save me. I am saved because He took up His cross. Taking up my cross daily is choosing to want Him and love Him more than anything else that day. Some days I do, others, I love me more. I hate that.
I love that the gospel of Luke uses the word “daily.” The Christian faith is not something that happened back then that will pay off later. Instead it is a daily journey of worship by choosing to come after Christ. It is difficult and peaceful all at the same time. It is joy filled and full of sacrifice. Those who follow daily find contentment in close proximity to Christ even if it means our earthly demise.